March 3, 2017

James A. Smith Sr.




 Religious Liberty Needs Restoration, Heritage Experts Tell Christian Communicators

Ryan T. AndersonORLANDO, Fla. (NRB) — A recovery of religious freedom is needed after eight years of setbacks, Christian communicators were told at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation Wednesday (March 1) during Proclaim 17, the National Religious Broadcasters’ International Christian Media Convention in Orlando.

Two Heritage experts – Ryan Anderson and Roger Severino – outlined during a lunch discussion the decline of religious liberty during the eight years of President Barack Obama’s administration and their hopes for its revival.

Eight years ago, shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, “It’s unlikely we would be having a session on religious liberty,” said Anderson, a senior research fellow at Heritage, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. “And the reason why is eight years ago religious liberty was not threatened in the United States.

“We’re only having that discussion now in such a high-profile way in the United States because for the past eight years religious liberty has been under assault in an unprecedented way,” he said.

During the last eight years, Anderson told the audience, “by and large, faithful Orthodox Jews, Roman Catholics, evangelical Christians, and Latter-day Saints have been on the losing end of a number of mandates that came out of the federal government or out of various state governments.”

The Obama administration mandates included, he explained, a rule requiring employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives containing mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions and a regulation forcing the performance of and insurance coverage for gender transition procedures or treatments.

During those eight years, Anderson noted, the “free exercise of religion got redefined to be the freedom of worship,” an Obama administration approach that undermined religious liberty domestically and internationally. Also during these years, local sexual orientation and gender identity laws were used to penalize professionals such as bakers, florists, and photographers who believe marriage is limited to a man and a woman, he said.

President Donald Trump could provide relief at the federal level by issuing an executive order protecting religious liberty, and Congress then would need to approve permanent protection, said Anderson, who acknowledged afterward it is uncertain whether Trump will act accordingly.

“No one knows what he’s going to do,” Anderson said. “I know what he should do. He should issue the executive order, because it would take nothing away from anyone while it would provide real protections to lots of Americans. “

Severino, Director of Heritage’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, said Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court provides hope for religious liberty.

“President Trump promised to appoint someone in the mold of Justice Scalia,” Severino said of the late justice, who was known as a champion of interpreting the Constitution based on its original meaning, “and he has kept that promise in Neil Gorsuch.”

Gorsuch “is a fantastic judge,” he said. “Anybody who believes in originalism as a judicial philosophy should be very much attracted to Neil Gorsuch.”

In religious liberty cases the federal appeals court judge has already been a part of, Gorsuch has ruled rightly on public displays of the Ten Commandments, roadside crosses in memory of fallen state police, and halal meals for Muslim prisoners, Severino said.

By Tom Strode

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About the NRB Convention

The annual NRB International Christian Media Convention is the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications. The dynamic Exposition consists of around 200 companies and is an active marketplace for those seeking tools and services to expand their organizations. The next Convention, Proclaim 18, will be held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, February 27-March 2, 2018. For more information, go to




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